The Fearful Alternative of Rejecting the Atonement
THE IMPENITENT SINNER WARNED
"There remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries." Hebrews 10:26, 27.
Many will doubtless be induced, from various motives, to read these humble pages, who will assent and consent to the truths they discuss, the doctrine they advocate, and even the one principle on which they constantly insist, that is, the necessity of experimental religion; and yet will close the book and retire, thinking as lightly of the great Atonement of the Son of God, as the child of the diamond, with which it for a moment plays, then tramples as a thing of no value beneath its feet. There is such a thing, my impenitent reader, as assenting to the great Atonement of Christ, defending ably and successfully its divine character, its expiatory nature, and its infinite design, and yet living without its practical influence upon the mind, the affections, and the life; and dying, as fearfully rejecting it, and with equal guilt, as he who openly avows his disbelief in the divine revelation of the doctrine. There may be a secret, practical rejection of the atoning blood, while the judgment fully and cordially assents to its truth and its necessity. It is not he who merely yields an intellectual assent to the truth of God's Word, who is accepted of God. Something far beyond this is needed. The Atonement is a practical, influential, life-imparting, and life-sustaining principle. It demands more than the bare and cold assent of the judgment. The heart must welcome it; and in order thus to welcome it, that heart must have mourned over the bitterness of sin, and in deep and unfeigned repentance before a holy God. Again we assert it- and would that the sentiment were carried to the conscience of the reader, and fastened there by the Eternal Spirit of God! -no man shall value the precious blood of Christ, until he has been made to see and feel himself to be a lost and undone sinner. Christ is precious only to the soul that feels its spiritual poverty, its vileness, its emptiness, its nothingness- to such an individual, Jesus is everything. The deeper the Eternal Spirit leads him to an acquaintance with himself, the more precious is that Savior, whom he now finds to be the very Savior that he needs. The daily discovery of indwelling corruption, inordinate affection, pride, self-esteem, instability, love of the world, and the innumerable other forms which indwelling depravity assumes, endears to him the fountain that cleanses from all sin; he repairs afresh to it, washes again and again in it; and these daily applications to the atoning blood make sin increasingly sinful, and strengthen the panting of his soul for divine conformity.
But, not so is it with the man who is a stranger to himself, while yet assenting with all the vigor of a forceful intellect, and an enlightened judgment, to the truth of the doctrine of Christ's Atonement. Reader, what is the atoning blood to you, as far as its saving influence extends, so long as you have never experienced its power in your heart? We charge you not with an open hostility to this doctrine, we rank you not among the number who profess no belief whatever in its existence- who deny it to be a doctrine of revelation, who refuse divine honors to the person of the Redeemer, and trample under foot his most precious atoning blood- we rank you not with this class of errorists. You are, in a sense, a believer in the Atonement, you have always so believed in it, it has always been an article of your orthodox creed: you have never denied it; you have sat, and still sit, beneath a ministry that holds it up to view as the one hope of the sinner, the exclusive ground of acceptance with God: and still you are "dead in trespasses and in sins." What an awful and anomalous spectacle do you present! A believer, and yet an unbeliever, in the atoning blood of Christ; receiving, and yet rejecting it; consenting to, and yet denying it; vindicating it, and yet turning your back upon it; your judgment assenting to it, your heart refusing it! What a spectacle do you present to the whole intelligent universe, and to the God of the universe! Bear with the writer while he says it- he speaks with tenderness and affection- your intellectual reception of the doctrine of the Atonement will avail you nothing while your heart is yet a stranger to the experience of its truth. Ah! you approve even of this, you assent even to the justness of this remark. What is your approval and your assent, but as the signing of your own death warrant? See what an alarming callousness a long life of impenitence and Gospel preaching has produced, that you can cordially approve of the most solemn and affecting statements- statements which bear strongly upon your own condemnation- and yet live on in a practical rejecting of Christ!
But, perhaps your reception of Christ in the judgment, your long life of approval of his person and his work, have beguiled you into the belief that you have really welcomed him into your heart. For this is not a mere hypothetical case. There is such a thing as persuading one's self into the belief that all is right, that the heart is changed and heaven secured, from the mere circumstance of the understanding being enlightened. But let us examine for a moment into this. Do you think you are converted? What reason have you for thinking so? Upon what grounds do you base this belief? Can you give a reason, with meekness and fear, of this supposed hope that is in you? Where is the evidence of the mighty, spiritual, internal change? Has that heart of yours ever been broken, softened, humbled? Has it ever mourned over sin before God? Have you ever sought and found a secret place for repentance, confession, and prayer? Have your views of sin essentially altered? Do you hate, abhor, and loathe it; and is it the chief cause of your daily sorrow? Are your views of yourself materially changed? How does your own righteousness appear to you? Are you humble, meek, gentle? What is the precious blood of the Savior to you? Is it, with the righteousness that justifies, all to your soul? Are you living as a converted, regenerated man- as a child of God- an heir of glory? Is your life that of a cross-bearing disciple of the Lord Jesus- as one who is a stranger and a pilgrim here- but, all whose hopes of honor and happiness are future and on high? But, is not your history the very reverse of this? Be honest with your soul and with God. Your decision now is for the judgment and for eternity. Is not your whole life, your daily walk, are not your pursuits and the governing principle of your conduct, those of an individual yet unacquainted with the experimental power of the truth? Is there not a love of the world, a grasping for its honors and its wealth, totally incompatible with the humble, self-denying spirit of one professing to "love not the world nor the things of the world," but by the cross of Christ, to be wholly crucified to it? These are solemn and heart searching questions, and must, in a process of self-examination, be frequently called up in the court of conscience, and honestly and unequivocally answered by every true believer. How much more anxiously ought he to weigh these considerations and narrowly scrutinize his heart, whose whole life, to the present, has been at variance with the first elements of the Christian character!
We recur again to a former thought. To receive Christ, is not merely to cherish an inward veneration, or to manifest an outward respect for him, his religion, his institutions, or his people. A man may talk well of Christ; think highly of his disciples, his ministers, his laws; and all the while live in secret rebellion against God, and a secret rejection of his Son. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." -it is nothing but flesh- no elements of the spiritual nature are incorporated with it- it is flesh, all flesh, and nothing but flesh: and yet, with this fleshly nature, a man may speak well of Christ, defend ably his cause, and outwardly profess his name.
"The carnal mind is enmity against God." It is nothing but enmity- no elements of love to God are there- it is enmity, all enmity, and nothing but enmity: neither while it remains a carnal mind, can it be otherwise. And yet with this carnal mind a man may throw himself in the very front ranks, and lead on the vanguard of the host of God's elect. O how solemn and affecting is this thought! May this train of remark have the tendency of driving the Christian reader, not within himself in search of evidences, proper as this to a certain extent may be, but to the feet of Jesus- to the cross of Christ there, viewing afresh his atoning blood and all- sufficient righteousness, draw those evidences from their proper and legitimate source- the finished work of Immanuel.
The sin of rejecting the Savior is, to the writer's mind, the sin of sins. The sin of thinking lightly of Christ, of turning the back upon God's unspeakable gift, of refusing to receive, love, and obey his only and well-beloved Son, is the sin which seems, like Aaron's rod, to swallow up every other. It is the master sin- the sin on which the great indictment will be made out against the ungodly world in the day when God shall make inquisition for blood. It is a sin, too- shall we remind the impenitent reader?- of which the devils have never been guilty. To them the Savior has never been sent. Before their eyes the cross has never been lifted. Along their gloomy coasts no tidings of redeeming mercy have ever echoed. To reject the Savior then- to turn your back upon the cross, to heed not the glad tidings of redemption, and to die in that state- is to pass to the judgment, guilty of a sin, from the charge of which even Satan himself will be acquitted! "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil."
The reason of this will be obvious to a thoughtful mind. Nowhere has God made such a full and glorious revelation of himself, as he has done in sending his only-begotten and well-beloved Son into the world. All the glory of all creation; worlds on worlds, and suns on suns; and all the glory of providence collected as into one focus, would possess no glory by reason of the glory that excels in the incarnation, obedience, and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here Jehovah, as it were, comes forth from the pavilion of his greatness, and unveiling his glories shows himself to man. Here all the perfections and attributes of the Divine character are revealed. And here, too, love, the crowning attribute of all, shines with surpassing luster. May it not be lawful to ask, without limiting the power of Omnipotence, whether it were possible for Jehovah to have devised a method better fitted to make himself known to his creatures than the mission of his Son into our world? The incarnation of Deity is an amazing theme. The thought of this could have originated but with Deity himself. The united strength of all created intellect would never have devised this plan of revealing the Divine glories, and making known the Divine mind. It was fit that it should originate with God, and him only. What angel in heaven, even had the idea been conceived in his mind, would have breathed the proposal that God should become incarnate and so die for man? O no! it was too grand a thought for created mind.
Now let the impenitent reader consider solemnly the fearful sin, and weigh well the appalling consequences, of rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ. In rejecting Christ you turn your back upon God himself. Has He not declared it? How then are we to interpret these solemn words?- "He that hates me hates my Father also." John xv. 23. "For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honors not the Son, honors not the Father who has sent him." John v. 22, 23. Behold in what light the word of truth places the sin of hating, honoring not, and rejecting the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, and the Redeemer of men. We beseech you, ponder well the sin of turning your back upon God's "unspeakable gift."
Permit us for a moment to glance at the present consequences- consequences felt in this life- of rejecting Christ. A stranger experimentally to the atoning blood, your heart must necessarily be a stranger to true happiness. Knowing nothing of a state of reconciliation, your mind can know nothing of the peace of God. You may repair to the ball-room and frequent the theater; you may visit the scenes of fashionable gaiety, or you may descend to the regions of sinful pleasure, and there excitement may flutter your heart and flush your cheek, and impart a moment's radiance to your eye; and yet the truth of God's word is verified in your experience- "there is no peace, says God, to the wicked." Isa. lvii. 21. Talk of happiness to the culprit within the grasp of the law- speak of peace to the man under the condemnation of death, and as soon might you expect a response from his heart, as from his who is living a rebel against God, and a stranger to the atoning and peace-speaking blood of Christ. O no, reader: you will ever be a stranger to true peace, you know nothing of true happiness, until you find it at the foot of the cross, in a sense of pardon, reconciliation, and acceptance with God. The world will deceive you, and sin will deceive you, and Satan will deceive you, and your own heart will deceive you, and even friends may deceive you, all speaking "peace, peace," when there is no peace. But heed them not: go as a sinner lost, a sinner undone, a sinner without anything but your vileness to commend you, and wash in the fountain open for all sin; and thus repenting, and believing in Jesus, your "peace shall be as a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea."
The eternal consequences of rejecting the Atonement of Christ are almost of too fearful a character to trace out: and yet the Word of God is our guide in this, as on all other matters, connected with the welfare, present and eternal, of the undying soul. We open it, and we read of "everlasting punishment," "the worm that never dies, and the fire that is never quenched," of "everlasting torments," of "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power," of "everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels," of "outer darkness, where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth." All this, and more, we read in connection with the final state of the impenitent and unbelieving, the rejecter of the Atonement of the Son of God. And is it surprising that this should be your doom, sinner? Not, if it be remembered that a rejection of Christ's Atonement involves a rejection of the only way of Salvation- "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." 1 Cor. iii. 11. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts iv. 12. "There remains no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." If this be true- and most true it is- to what an alarming state is the sinner reduced! He must receive Christ, or be eternally banished from heaven. This is the only plank: reject this, and your soul must sink beneath the dark billows of Jehovah's wrath. Then, what ought to be your present course? Immediate repentance and humiliation before God- this must be your first step: throw down the weapons of your long rebellion- throw down your weapons before the cross- and come in the posture and with the confession of a law-condemned and self-condemned soul. Think not of a future repentance- dream not of a deathbed conversion: it is a work too great and important to leave until then; it must be done now- the present is yours only- tomorrow you may be in eternity. Many have been the sermons you have heard- solemn have been the warnings you have received- affecting have been the entreaties and motives with which the faithful minister, and the beseeching parent, and the anxious friend have plied you- and yet you remain impenitent and unbelieving. Repent then, this moment repent: God commands you to repent; death, judgment, eternity, all urge you to repent now. Think not that you have anything of goodness to commend you to God. On his mercy you have no possible claim. You heavily deserve to die, and it is a wonder of wonders that you are at this moment out of hell. O trifle not with the patience of God! It may weary soon, and then he will swear that you, who have broken his law, slighted his grace, and rejected his Son, shall never enter into his rest. But, if you are resolved to perish in your unbelief- if you are resolved to die rejecting Christ and his great salvation- if you have made a covenant with death, and with hell are at an agreement then, there remains no more sacrifice for sin, but one tremendous, appalling alternative, O it is a fearful one, pause before you choose it- the alternative of being eternally lost!